IN OTHER WORDS
Following the 9/11 attacks, it was evident that the nation had to do some careful thinking about the proper balance between national security and civil liberties. Instead of care and balance, sadly, the Bush
administration immediately lunged to claim extraordinary, and largely unnecessary, new powers.
Recently, however, a federal district judge in New York declared unconstitutional one notorious outgrowth of the Bush team’s approach: the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s over reliance on informal demands for information, called national security letters, to obtain private records from telephone and Internet companies, banks and other businesses without a court warrant.
The decision by Judge Victor Marrero struck down 2006 revisions to the Patriot Act that expanded the bureau’s power to use national security letters. The judge declared that the measure violated both the First Amendment and the principle of separation of powers. The deference that the law required courts to give to the executive branch, he stated, could amount to “the hijacking of constitutional values.” Lawmakers in both parties have voiced disapproval of the FBI’s abuse of national security letters. But they have not made a sustained push to fix the law that created this mess. Judge Marrero’s ruling should change that. — The New York Times